Immi: "There are big things to come from this team; 'online' comments do not affect us"
We caught up with NRG coach Ian "Immi" Harding ahead of IEM Sydney and picked his brain on his first months on the job as the team prepare for their first LAN tournament in 2018.
The North American team recently won the iBUYPOWER 2018 Spring Invitational and have qualified for four international LAN events, the first of which, IEM Sydney, starts in just 24 hours. After returning from Australia, NRG will compete at the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals, the ECS Season 5 Finals and at StarSeries & i-League Season 5.
NRG have been drawn in a tricky group in Sydney, featuring three top five teams in the world including the current No.1 side, Astralis, who will be their first opponent. For the North Americans, attending the Australian event will be a special moment as they have not competed on LAN since the last Pro League Finals, in December.
What are your thoughts on these first two months as NRG’s coach? What has been your focus since your joined?
I am really enjoying coaching the guys, it has been a lot of late nights and hard work, but I could not have asked for a better group, and there's nothing more satisfying than seeing hard work pay off whilst doing something you love. NRG have been very welcoming, I have settled in well and am really looking forward to seeing how far we can go. We've been on a great run since I joined, and I hope we bring that form into the upcoming LANs and take in all the experience on offer this year. I really believe this group have everything to make it to the top.
The best thing you can wish for as a coach is to have a skilled team who just wants to improve with no egos, so, fortunately, my focus has been purely in-game. Communication is key to any team, so we started off with fixing minor details with that and moved on to our CT side, general setups and refining the fundamentals. A big part of my coaching has been our match preparation, which is something I’ve really enjoyed doing, and I think has really helped the guys in developing a game plan for what they want to do.
You are in a different timezone from the team. How do you manage that? What does your schedule look like?
At first, it was really hard to manage, but now that I am used to it, it is not a problem. With anything you enjoy, sacrifices have to be made, and I am sure once I move out to the team house then I can sort my internal clock once and for all. Currently, I wake up around 13:00, start to work on whatever I need to for the team that day, practice begins around 20:00 and I usually finish my day and go to bed around 05:00.
Do you already know when you will be able to join up with the rest of the team in the US?
My visa application is in the latter stages, so I’m hoping to be joining up with the team in mid-May, just before the EPL finals in Dallas. Thanks to Brett and especially Derrick for all their help on this!
This will be the team’s first LAN event since the EPL Season 6 Finals, in December. How do you see the players? Do you think they are eager to play on LAN?
The boys are all eager to play on LAN and to do damage. They have had to handle criticism in the past, but once we have some serious experience under our belts I think it will be just a matter of tweaking a few things. I have never been involved with a team like this before, where everything just feels right (maybe that’s because I came from the UK scene), but there are big things to come from this team, I can promise everyone that.
How is the team handling the comments about being ‘online’?
To be honest, it doesn’t really affect us, we just joke about it for the most part. We have seen teams be called "chokers" or "onliners" and go on to be the very best in the world. All we can do is attend these events with all the top teams over the next month, prepare, and play our best. The results will come.
Your team caught everyone by surprise with a great start to the season. What do you think that is the secret for the team to be playing at this unprecedented level?
There is no secret. It's about finding the right group of players and working hard. It’s not just myself who has been making sacrifices, everyone in this team is doing what they need to do outside of practice to improve their games and bring new things to the table, especially daps. This guy as an IGL has really impressed me, he works extremely hard to improve his team, and the work we all put in is starting to show.
In your first match in Sydney, you will take on Astralis, who are fresh off winning DreamHack Masters Marseille. Is this the worst team that you could get? How have you prepared for this match?
Astralis are the hardest team to draw at the moment, mainly because their map pool is so deep. Many will see our group as the hardest we could have gotten with 3 out of the top 4 teams from Dreamhack Masters Marseille in it [before Na`Vi pulled out]. We are still confident, we are ready and we hope to get some really good LAN results over the next month.
We don’t always have a game plan for specific opponents as sometimes the game plan consists of us just playing our own game because we have great belief in ourselves. Astralis have considerable experience and we respect them, but we don't fear them. We have prepared like we have for any other game.
How are preparations for the tournament going? What have you been working on?
We have been preparing the same we have all season. It's a little harder with so many events in such a short space of time, but we just work on everything we can within our game, and, if we stay on course and steadily improve, I honestly believe we can give anyone a good game.
What are the team’s goals for this event?
Counter-Strike is a confidence game, you have to aim to win every event, and I know the guys will be aiming high, but my goal is to secure as much experience as possible, and that means going as deep as we possibly can in the tournament. I will be happy if we get out the group in Sydney, considering it’s my first event as a coach and the team's first event together, but if we can get out of groups I genuinely believe we can challenge to win this event.
At the beginning of the month, CeRq was rumoured to be joining Cloud9. Was there some truth to it? What steps have NRG taken to fend off interest from big organisations in its players?
Rumours are not my strong suit, so I can't really comment on the specifics of this case. However, I can say that myself and NRG have worked to create a positive atmosphere and the players are responding well to it. I think our recent results show a team that is on the rise and these guys want to stick it out to show the world what they can do.